Despite his cultural popularity – and his status as one of our most beloved modern-day meme stars – I had only watched Bob Ross’s The Joy of Painting when I needed help falling asleep in college. But when times are tough, we turn to those in this world who invite us to pause and appreciate life. For me, Bob Ross became that person on a Saturday afternoon when I wanted to send a package to my friend.


Actually, there is more to the story. Originally, I had sent out hand-painted boxes with forgotten items, mail, cookies and handwritten notes to my four roommates. After the packages arrived, only one roommate commented on the art. While I’m not an artist by any stretch, I admit that my pride was wounded by my other roommates’ radio silence. Were they not colorful enough? Did the art smudge during the shipping? What could I have done better?

I wanted to elicit a bigger, better response, so I picked up my paints and turned to the PBS superstar himself, the one-and-only Bob Ross. After searching for a painting that would fit on the side of a small cardboard shipping box, I found what I was looking for and went to work.

Despite the weight of a global pandemic, I was pleasantly surprised how at ease I felt while following Bob’s instructions. Fittingly, the title of the tutorial was “Reflections of Calm.” Like many, I found myself simultaneously amused and frustrated by his speed, and I had to stop several times to examine how he blended colors together or applied the paint.

While I did not have the right canvas, correct paints or the famous Liquid White, I made do with some improvising and, in the end, I was happy with the result. The highlight of the tutorial was when Bob chuckled and said, “If you were working on a dry canvas, you’d be in agony city.” I don’t think he envisioned a homebound millennial attempting to paint his masterpiece on a dry piece of cardboard. But there I was.

Overall, this was a great way to spend a Saturday afternoon. With 31 seasons and episodes across different streaming platforms, including, there is no shortage of inspiration to be found in The Joy of Painting.

Author’s Note: When asked, my roommates gave glowing reviews of my painting and were very touched. I feel much better now.


This story is made possible by the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund and the citizens of Minnesota.


When this writer’s roommates left their shared home to spend their shelter-in-place time with their families, she raided the communal fridge and made something unexpected, something delicious, something with a mystery squash. Her impromptu ingenuity is your reward.

While Cooking and Painting Under Quarantine writer Anne Guttridge paints Bob Ross masterpieces on the sides of boxes, this Minnesota woman and her daughter make intricate chalk art designs on their back patio. They may wash away in the wind and rain, but they bring delight nonetheless.

Craving new routes for your daily walks? Both Minneapolis and Saint Paul feature “outdoor galleries” of vibrant murals that might just fulfill your hunger for beauty in these stay-at-home times. Your murals walking tours in Minneapolis and in Saint Paul await, complete with maps for easy navigation.